A "sea chantey" or "sea shanty," properly speaking, is a maritime work song used by sailors in the 19th century. As the Age of Sail was replaced by the Age of Steam, chanteys were no longer needed for practical reasons, but because they are so enjoyable to sing they were adopted as drinking songs, campfire songs, or for community singing.
Find a Sea Chantey Sing
Chicago Shanty Sing
In Chicago, for several years there has been a group of people that get together regularly in the back room of a pub to sing chanties together; for the few years they have been meeting one Sunday a month from 3 pm to 6 pm at The Atlantic Bar & Grill, 5062 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago. For further details email email@example.com or join the Yahoo group.
The group gathers in the back room in a rough circle, and the songs start flying around. Although some chantey sings are organized as song circles, where there is an order in which turns are taken, in Chicago the singers generally take their turn as the spirit moves them. However, if we know you are shy and want to sing, we will try to create an opportunity for you to sing. (Let the organizer know, though often she will ask.) Everyone is encouraged to lead a song, but it isn't required and we won't think less of you if you don't lead one. In general, sea chanteys are preferred, though sometimes folks will sing a sea-themed non-chantey: the key is that others will be able to join in. Lengthy murder ballads, even if they are about pirates, aren't the ideal choice unless there is a sing along element. The point of the chantey sing is to engage in participatory music making, not to put on a performance. It's not open mic or karaoke.
Some people do bring musical instruments, but because sea chanteys are normally sung a cappella it is difficult to join in with an instrument unless you are good enough to identify the key the singer is in on your own and join in on the fly. Unless the song leader is herself or himself playing an instrument they will usually not be able to tell you the key or the chords.
If you have any interest in this sort of thing, we encourage you to join us. The Atlantic is a pub rather than a bar, so people under 21 may attend. If you are considering bringing kids, the songs chosen generally aren't bawdy, though some contain harsh language and may refer to drinking or chasing women.
Other Midwestern Sings
Also in Illinois is a chantey sing near the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana campus, usually the third Monday. For info, contact Chris Maden.
There are chantey sings all over. The biggest and longest-running is probably the one in San Francisco, held the first Saturday of month at the San Francisco Maritime National Park at Hyde St. Pier, from 8 pm to midnight.
Sea chantey central is probably the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. Every day at the museum, staff lead visitors in rousing sea chanties, and for over twenty years it has hosted an annual sea music festival in early June which includes numerous chantey performances and sing alongs.
There is a monthly sing in Port Townsend, Washington.
In New York City, you can go to a chantey sing on Staten Island every month at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, sponsored by the Folk Music Society of New York.
Near Washington DC, you can find a chantey sing every week. For info, contact Ship's Company.
There is a sing in Gainesville, Florida at The Midnight Bar, which seems to be organized through Facebook. However, if you were to contact the bar you might be able to learn more.
This site maintained by Kathy Whisler, organizer of the Chicago Shanty Sing. For some of my other interests, see http://www,yellowzeppelin.net. To have your sing added to this list, email firstname.lastname@example.org.